The Supplementary Papers
Illusion and Reality
The problem of illusion and reality can alone be solved by the study of nature, in nature especially is the realization of the self. The wise understand that the consciousness is covered under all the garments of man's planes of existence. In fact the sources such as mind and body, which build up the personality of an individual, are changeable and liable to destruction, therefore neither the body nor the mind can be called a reality, as such is the nature of their functions, their work and their outcome.
The nature of illusion is such that the facts of nature lose their importance after passing from their present state. For instance you are not suffering the pain which you may have suffered yesterday or you may not feel the comfort you may have experienced formerly. And if your past condition is of no importance to you just now, the joy or sorrow that you may be experiencing just now will not be with you tomorrow. Such is the case with every moment of life, that which at present seems a reality, when passed becomes a dream and an illusion. This shows that there is nothing within or without which you may call a stable state of existence but in consciousness alone, that is, the consciousness you can recollect you had, the faculty of consciousness when a child, although now childhood may have become a dream to you, and everyday's joy and sorrow in life came and passed.
The loss and gain in life performed its part, and disappeared, did good or bad, and was finished with. The one came and the other passed away from your sight. If you can say that anything ever remained with you constantly it would be no other than consciousness. Although it is difficult for every person to know even what is meant by consciousness, because of its mind-like nature, it has no color or form by which it may be distinguished. The consciousness is the only function by which a person experiences all planes and phases of life and being occupied with names and forms reflected in it, it loves its own sight just like a mirror which shows the object reflected in it instead of its (own) existence, which witnessed all coming and going and yet it is as it has ever been.
Therefore the Sufi centers his delight in consciousness, the permanent beloved, instead of running after passing shadows, but consciousness also shows its limitation, its time of becoming conscious and again its nature of ceasing to be the same. This shows that its origin must be in its opposite state meaning unconsciousness which is called eternal consciousness by mystics and darkness in the Quran. This state can be realized as the most real, steady and unchangeable one existence. The seekers of this never cast even a glance towards illusionary existence. "We shall lift the veil from thine eyes and thy sight shall be keen." Quran. This shows that the lifting of the veil of illusion is the illumination or the keen sight.
The spirit of consciousness has formed all things and beings from negative to positive existence out of nothing else but its own essence. This shows that all the capable and incapable things of analysis are the manifestations of consciousness. But the positive existence can be analyzed by the material self of man. But that self is unable to analyze the negative things and beings for it is out of reach. The Sufi therefore attains the freedom of his consciousness first, and thus liberating his view he can analyze both by staying apart from them. This idea is taught by Christ in the phrase, "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added on to thee."
The Philosophy of Form
The activity in the plane of consciousness produces vibrations which clashing together produce sound and become audible, and sound in its next step towards manifestation becomes light which brings the audible manifestation to the visible state. The sparks of light grouped together by the power of their innate affinity make the inner light, the torch of guidance. The concentrated reflection of the same in the physical world is the sun, which so long had been taken as the substitute of God, which people worshipped calling it Sun-God.
The concentrated reflection of the sun is the moon. It is the sun which is reflected in parts, the light of which grouped in greater or smaller portions and settled at longer or shorter distances which has illuminated the whole cosmos. The sun is not the origin of the whole solar system, but the maker of all the forms of the universe which are its manifestations.
A certain degree of light shining in a certain direction before different views produces the illusion of a certain color as it may happen. In fact all colors are the different aspects of light, but the degree of light and the ever active nature of the variety of the manifestation change it into different aspects.
The whole space contains forms and all forms occupy space. Yet all negative forms become invisible in the presence of the positive. Again every positive form becomes negative in the presence of a still more radiant one. For instance if there be a blazing fire in a room, we practically notice nothing else, no matter how many objects there may be because our eyes are attracted by the radiance of the fire. In the same way, if there be any bright objects in the room our eyes are attracted to them before anything else in the room. The objects as we see them we believe them to be, that which owing to the limited power of our sight we cannot see we say does not exist, but that there is only an empty space. Therefore if anybody happens to see any such forms which are not visible to all, people at once begin to accuse him of lunacy.
The view of every thing depends upon three things: 1) the radiance of the object, 2) the grade of light thrown on it, 3) the power of our sight. The pearl in the shell, the uncut diamond fresh from the mine, or rusted gold however precious cannot show their value at first sight, for their value is in their radiance, and as the radiance is brought out so precious they become.
To the view of some people the petals of a flower, even the veins of the leaf show clear, while to those of weak sight even to distinguish a flower or to discriminate one leaf from the other is difficult and according to the sight of each individual the object is differently seen and recognized. The normal power of the light gives a balanced view of things, a very dazzling light takes away the beauty of some objects while it enhances that of others. So it is with dimness of light.
Further in its view it manifests each time differently under the influence of light and shade. If a person would stand amidst ten mirrors and his photograph be taken from each mirror, each of them will differ from the other. Again if a person will pose for a photograph a hundred times in the day in the same pose a hundred photographs will be produced, and although of the same pose, yet differing the one from the other owing to the difference of light and shade.
Each substance may be called the grouping of the like atoms, for like attracts like. Nature's power of affinity brings each atom closer to its similar one; however far apart they may be. The sole purpose of each atom is to approach and join its own element. This may be seen in the forest and the desert, in the former where there is one tree in time many others grow, and in the latter where there are none, there perhaps never will be. The same is the case with the different minerals, gold is found with gold and coal with coal; all grouped together attracted by their affinity for ages. The atoms of a substance in their finer form being a vibration, this law applies to them. The power of affinity groups the vibrations similarly which is felt and perceived by the mind which we may call thought or feeling. Although the thought has such vibrations which are on their way to being transformed into atoms, every such formation either of spirit or of substance naturally makes a form either fine or gross, even or uneven.
The influence of each element has a tendency to help make a particular form owing to the peculiar nature of their manifestation and direction they take. The earth element spreads and takes a straight course, while the water has a tendency to flow downwards. Fire rises upwards while air moves in a zigzag direction, ether blurs. All these elements make different forms according to their nature and direction, and all forms of the universe show one or more element in their formation to the eye of the seer. It is this which has guided the ancient discoverers of healing properties in herbs and drugs.
If we look at the sky and see the naturally formed pictures made by the clouds floating about and grouping differently, we can easily understand the nature of form, seeing how an elephant formed in the clouds turns suddenly into a horse, and how from a horse changes into the form of a camel or of some human being, or into the form of a bird or beast. It is nothing, but the grouping and the scattering of the atoms of the clouds, and the proportion of light or shade falling on them helps to distinguish forms.
This fact may again be seen by watching the fire, that each group of ashes that surrounds the burning coal, produces a shade and thus the combination of light and shade makes out of it a form or picture of whatever it may be, and at each moment the dropping of the ashes and its increase both produces various forms in the light.
The various forms are differentiated from each other by reason of time and space. The leaf produced yesterday changes its color and form today, thus differing the one from the other, but both having the same source.
If it had not been so, all beings of the universe would have been alike, being the manifestation of the One and only Being. The difference of likeness among the races during different periods, and the difference of the features and natures among children of the same parents shows that the cause of all difference has been time and space. There is a greater resemblance between twin born children owing to their birth taking place so near together. Yet in this case the difference has the same cause. Germs, insects, birds, and beasts resemble each other much more closely than human beings, birds more so than beasts, and germs more so than insects, because so many of them are born at the same time.
The difference between the inhabitants of the different parts of the universe is as great as is the space between them. For instance the Chinese resemble the Japanese more closely than an Egyptian, while the Persians resemble the Turks, owing to the nearness of their native land.
The difference in appearance and nature between the inhabitants of East and West is as great as is the space between, and the time between the birth and growth of their race, although man is the same all over the world. The difference of science, art, customs, manners and ideas, their progress and degeneration all are worked out under the law of time and space. Not only this but even man's fate in life depends much more upon the time of his birth and the influence of the planet ruling at the time.
On the model of the earth the Heavens were built. This reveals the mystery of form that it is the impressions gathered on earth which enable the soul to make different forms. A turmoil caused by external activities naturally upsets the harmony and rhythm of the creative activity within. There it works as a sound, as light, then it turns into feeling and thought, then in the end it manifests through form, figure, and especially through feature and expression. Speaking in brief it may be said that every action done on the surface is as ringing the bell in the church tower, evenly rung it sounds rhythmic, unevenly rung produces an unrhythmic impression.
The finer forces of life are holding in their hand the rein of external elements and according to their sound and rhythm the external elements work. It is in this way the change of features is brought about, upon which beauty or ugliness depends. The one who knows the secret of this can mold his form and produce his ideal in his children. In this the mother's part is more important than that of the father.
Form may be seen even in a phrase, in a poem, and it may be seen in imagination, thought, even emotions and feelings have their forms, and those who see only with the physical eyes can see no other than the material form, and it is so to speak a kind of eye that opens which sees the forms of ideas and feelings. The Prophets who heard the inner voice have given to that divine language a form and tried to picture that form in their words which the world has taken as a sacred book. It is the nature of mind to adorn every idea, thought and feeling with a suitable form according to its capability in which lies the whole secret of vision. Symbolism is a language of the idea hidden under a cloak of a form It is a natural tendency of a developed mind to express an idea in a symbol or to read an idea from a symbol, which proves that behind every form there is a spirit and behind all these fine and gross forms there is God.
There are always two ideas understood in general about the nature of existence. One is that there is some power behind, named God, Who creates beings and moves them according to His will. The joy, pain, riches, poverty, success, failure, all He makes previously and prepares for man at the formation of his soul, and afterwards He makes changes in accordance to man's good or bad actions which are given in man's power, he being made responsible for them. There is another idea that man makes his own fate, or mars his own fortune, and that there is no other power hidden behind which has any influence on his life.
In all these three different ideas an argument arises: if the hidden power or God, the Almighty does control man's every action and deed, why should then man be rewarded for his virtues and punished for his sins, since he has no choice in the matter. In the second idea an argument arises that: if man makes his fortune, then why every man cannot obtain all he desires and what is it that hinders at times the path of his accomplishment?
In connection with the third idea a question arises that if the planets have influence upon every individual why should anybody try for success, and why should he strive for good ends, if they are under a planetary influence they must come just the same without any effort on his part.
The explanation of the above named fact is that God the Creative Power has a purpose already intended before He manifests each atom, just like a carpenter would know before making a chair that it may be used for a sitting purpose. This can be understood by studying man's anatomy how, for keeping this external machine right, one organ is made to help the other, as for instance eyelids as a protection for the eyes. Man blinded by witnessing every thing with his eyes fails to see the Creator's wisdom, but calls Him wise just the same.
Of course there are two tendencies, the creative, and the responsive and very often, the creative tendency cannot accomplish its aim owing to the lack of responsive tendency. For instance a person would throw an arrow to kill the tiger, but the arrow might fail to accomplish its purpose, or a cow might run into it and the tiger may be saved at the expense of the cow. God, the Creator, sends every soul on earth to reach the ideal aim, but the lack of responsive tendencies keeps man astray until at last he may be dragged towards his origin, after going through all sufferings and pains in life.
Although man is limited in his choice of affairs for the purpose for which he has been created, yet he is made responsible for his deeds, because of his also being given free will to command through his limited sphere in life. Thus man makes or mars his fortune. His will is called Qadr, and the will behind it which embraces the will of all individuals is Qaza.
Of course the planets have their influence upon man's life, for his soul having existed in the planet partakes its conditions and shows it in man's life on earth. At the same time each period is reflected by an influence of a planet. In fact it is the cosmic universe which distinguishes time to our view, if not man would never have been able to know either the day of the week, a month or what time of the night or day it may be. Therefore each time has its influence in connection with man's life.
What in Man Lives and What Dies The answer to this question is very simple: it is the false, the unreal self of man that dies, his real self is always alive. The question arises, "What is man's unreal self and what is the real self?" There are these two beliefs, one that God made the world and remains outside of it, apart from His manifestation, and the stronger belief is that God made all from Himself. Then the question arises, "Why is that which is made of the real unreal and perishable? We do not expect a truthful man to tell a lie."
God is more than real, more than true, but we have only the words "real", "true", to express it. Man exists at one pole of his being as the universal consciousness, calm, silent, unconscious of its own existence. You may say, "How can this be consciousness?" It is consciousness, intelligence, light. In Sanskrit it is called Chaitanya, intelligence. In the Quran it is written, "We have made thee of Our light and of thy light We have made the whole universe." This is supposed to be said of Muhammad.
In the Bible it is said that first was the word and the word was light and from light all things were made. There are these three lights: God, the light of the Teacher and the world. The Consciousness made from itself the other two lights by which it experiences life. This is the meaning of the Christian Trinity, though there are very few people who understand it, in thousands one may find one. My definition of light is: that which appears. All that appears can only appear by the light that is in it, by the radiance.
The inclination of the intelligence is always towards its own element, the consciousness. The inclination of each thing is to its element. If there are two streams of water near together, the stronger attracts the lesser and they unite. If there are two flames they unite. If a fire is lighted in the strong sunshine it will not burn for long. It seems that it has gone out, but really the fire element has been attracted to the sun. This can easily be observed in tropical countries, where they light fires out of doors. In one pole of our being we are self-sufficient, in the other man is dependent upon all other beings, not self-sufficient. From the king to the poor this is so. And all unhappiness in life comes from that, that we are not self-sufficient.
If we watch closely we shall find that in the twenty-four hours there is a time when we were absent, we did not know where we were or what we were. In this is the whole mystery of being, though it seems very simple. This is the state in which the Consciousness is unconscious of all save of its own existence. In the Hindu scriptures this state of consciousness is called Mukti, freedom. It is a very high state. In Islam it is called Najat, liberation. The mystics experience this state consciously; the ordinary person experiences it in deep sleep, when he does not know where he is or what he is.
The Consciousness is not conscious of itself, because we have not given it the habit of being conscious of other things. The desire of the Consciousness is to live. It is from this desire that a man does all that he does. The soul remembers its original state from which it has come and it wishes to experience the world, but it longs also to return there, to that calm and stillness. There is this longing in every soul, and in the beasts, in plants and stones.
If you ask an artist, a painter, why he works, why he does all that, he will say that it is for the sake of beauty, for the sake of art, or for the sake of earning, but behind it all is the desire of life. The soul always wishes to be alive. No one wishes to be dead, and if anyone says, "I wish I were dead," "I wish I had never lived," it is said when the spell of emotion is upon him, or else in a fit of anger or sadness. Or the soul that feels itself captive in the mind and body, may wish to break these prison bars and to exist as it existed before, it does not know where or how, somewhere, somehow.
All that is born, built, sprung or made must one day or other be destroyed. When the soul loses what it has thought its life, its physical body, this is its greatest disappointment. When in the East the saints and sages go to the jungle and to the caves of mountains, leaving all behind them, do you think that they do it in order to acquire a great psychical power or great occult power? Not at all. It would not be worth renouncing so much for that. They do it for the sake of this freedom, the freedom of the soul.
When a person has gained this freedom and has realized what really is important, then all the troubles of life become unimportant. Then the fear of death is gone and all ignorance. A person who cannot swim is afraid of the sea; the waves frighten him. But the swimmer is not afraid; he swims out into the sea, and dives, as he pleases. Joy and sorrow are the two ends of the same rod. There is no such thing as sadness or joy. It is only that seeing one end of the rod gives man that illusion.
God bless you.